What makes her powerful: Rarely has a federal judge had so much influence over what happens in the wireless industry as U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. That's because Huvelle is the presiding judge in the Department of Justice's antitrust complaint to block AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA.
Huvelle, who was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1999 after serving as a lawyer and Associate Judge of the D.C. Superior Court, has already reshaped how much of the wireless industry will approach its business for the next several months, setting a trial date of Feb. 13 for the government's case against the deal. The world will be watching to see how the trial transpires.
There is enormous political pressure on both sides of the deal, something Huvelle recognizes but argues will not influence how she approaches the case. Half of the cases she hears have "a lot of noise around them," she told the Washington Post. "But I think my job is to look at the law and the facts."
In 2001, in another important antitrust case, Huvelle blocked the Justice Department's efforts to stop a $700 million merger between computer-disaster-recovery companies Comdisco and SunGard. Huvelle argued that market concentration was not enough to stop the deal given that consumers had other alternatives.
In the AT&T/T-Mobile case, the burden of proof that the deal violates antitrust law will be on the government, and a key factor will be how Huvelle looks at market concentration. It's not at all clear yet what she will decide, but she certainly has a great deal of power in her hands. --Phil